Grey County, located three to four hours northwest of Toronto, contains some of the most beautiful and breathtaking portions of the Niagara Escarpment.
Grey County is home to five spectacular waterfalls, three of which will be examined in this article. It is the gateway to the Bruce Peninsula, a picturesque finger of land jutting northwest separating Georgian Bay from Lake Huron.
The Bruce Trail, which runs approximately 500 kilometers from Niagara to Tobermory, provides excellent hiking through parts of the Beaver River Valley, Owen Sound and Georgian Bay shorelines lined with its high white cliffs, deep bays and clear water. During the autumn the Beaver Valley is painted with a stunning array of colors from the changing leaves.
At Eugenia, the Beaver River drops 30 meters (98 feet) forming Eugenia Falls. According to Gillard and Took, in their book The Niagara Escarpment from Tobermory to Niagara, Eugenia Falls was first seen by a European in 1853,when a man named Brownlee followed the roaring sound of rushing water while hunting and found the waterfalls and apparently, something even more precious – a shiny yellow, metallic rock, he believed to be gold. The ” gold rush” was on until the shiny gold rocks turned out to be pyrite – fool’s gold. The “gold rush” was over.
Wealth came to Eugenia when five mills and a hydroelectric plant were built above the falls in the 19th century. In 1915, Ontario Hydro built a larger hydroelectric plant. The Beaver River was dammed to produce the larger quantity of electricity desired by Ontario Hydro. The diversion of water affected the flow of water to Eugenia Falls and may account for the falls being virtually dry during various times of the year.
Walter’s Falls is located next to an abandoned lumber yard in the small hamlet of Walter’s Falls. The empty wooden buildings stand as a reminder of the economic importance of waterfalls in the 19th century to the local economy. Today the industries once powered by the falls moved further away thanks to the availability of electricity from plants located hundreds of kilometers away. From a viewing stand that straddles Walter’s Creek, a small reedy creek, you get a good view of the water rolling over the crest of the falls. Walter’s Creek is slow moving, but once its waters reached the crest it plummeted downward with surprising force.
The Sydenham River works its way to the escarpment and carves a natural work of art – Inglis Falls. Inglis Falls cascade gracefully down the layered steps of escarpment rock and forms a delicate, feathery ever pretty waterfalls. It is captivating to watch and follow the current over the top of the crest and see it roll down to the first layer of rock and then to the next and the next as the water spitefully rolls its way to the bottom.The Sydenham River cascades 18 meters (59 feet) in height to produce Inglis Falls.
The remains of the grist mill built by Peter Inglis in 1845 can be seen just below the falls. A sawmill added shortly was converted to a woolen mill in 1870. In the 1860’s a larger four-story grist mill replaced the original and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1945. Two milestones are all that are left.
From Inglis Falls one can take in a breathtaking panoramic view of the Sydenham River Valley during the Fall. As far as the eye can see golden, red, yellow and brown colors, reminiscent of the colors in paintings by famed Canadian painter, Tom Thomson, who was born nearby in the town of Leith.
The Niagara Escarpment is beautiful in all seasons. Some of the best waterfalls along the escarpment are found in Grey County, Ontario.